x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Doctor says she's fulfilled by Pakistan relief work

A doctor with a UAE-based medical relief team working in Pakistan says she's driven by a sense of responsibility and adventure.

A girl in a camp collects water for her family.
A girl in a camp collects water for her family.

Driven by her sense of responsibility and adventure, Dr Nerissa Orteza left her home in the Philippines this year to join a UAE-based medical relief team.

"I was looking for new ideas and experiences and to start the next phase of my life," she said. "I think it's necessary to help if you can. It's a passion: you want the patients to feel you can help them."

Since joining the Zayed Giving Initiative - led by the Emirati heart surgeon Dr Adel al Shamry - Dr Orteza, 44, has travelled to projects in Morocco and is now in Pakistan. She is responsible for staff working at the group's UAE International Humanitarian Field Children's Hospital in the town of Thatta.

"I'm like the mother of the group," the project coordinator said. It is this nurturing nature that she tries to bring to her work, believing the patients she sees are not just in need of her medical skills, but also some comfort and sound advice.

Dr Orteza, who has been a GP for 10 years, left the Philippines in May and travelled to Morocco where the Zayed Giving Initiative's UAE International Humanitarian Mobile Hospital is currently stationed.

When the full extent of the flood disaster in Pakistan became apparent, she was sent on an emergency mission based in Karachi, along with a Zayed Giving Initiative team, including nurses and lab technicians.

The core team - 10 medical staff from Egypt, the Philippines and Morocco - is supported by Pakistani medics, as well as international volunteers who visit the hospital and clinic on rotation.

With language and cultural barriers, as well as difficult working conditions, the work has proved challenging, but rewarding, Dr Orteza said. "I get bored if I don't adapt myself to another environment. I need to feed my brain and my passion, which is healing people," the doctor said.

"The money is not comparable to what you would get if you were practising in a regular clinic or hospital, but the feeling of fulfilment is always there."

zconstantine@thenational.ae